On being curious to get sht done.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”

—”Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.’” LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955) p. 64”
― Albert Einstein

This post will explain how I approached curiosity while doing my job, like the quote above, which is one of my favorites about merely comprehending a little.

Curiosity pushed all the knowledge I have ever acquired.

So, in my “Book Slide,” there are several books around curiosity, so it was in this process of developing and learning that I began to understand the massive impact of curiosity on creativity.

I audiobook, some say it’s not reading. Check out this search around the question. Here is a search summary of the two methods

the book slide
A recent image from a deck with the book slide

Whys are always ways to be curious; I have posted on the 5 Whys as a way to dig and dig. Simon Sinek’s book of the same name is a solid treatise on the value of why, why be curious to get at understanding. Then, post understanding, you form mental models of what you learn and begin to arrive over time at knowledge. Listening, understanding (comprehension), knowing, and once you know, the scale of that knowing exposes your brain to more things you do not understand or know.

But why & so what?

This book, The Book of Why, is an excellent, albeit technical, book about why things happen and how cause and effect, correlation, and how we humans perceive the world with biases and all. Curiosity can pierce the intuition heuristics we rely on to navigate and engage in the world. Over time, as a creative, the world has looked different to me; I have gone through this journey of learning and chasing curiosity as a part of my tradecraft. Possibly to a fault, as my knowing expands, my ignorance grows exponentially. Why is that?

The book of why, the new science of cause and effect
The book of why

Expansive Ignorance™️😂

When I listen to a book, I learn something(s). That then exposes my brain to 10x things I now want to know about that learning. A little knowledge for some humans means that I want to understand more as I learn more, hence the expansive ignorance index.

What expanding ignorance means in real life. The Booklist. I started in c.2008, I hadn’t read or audiobook any book since College. Even then, the only ‘Book’ was H.W. Janson’s telephone tome of Art History.

This is a screen cap of my Booklist (finished ones)

Sidenote: Failing Art History I, II, and III in my first year at Drexel meant I needed to retake them before graduating, which meant Sr. year was three quarters (Drexel is/was 10-week quarters + coop) of 25 Credits, Graduating with 182 credits. So fun, not.

Back to the story… I started with some Gladwell’ian books, some Freakonomics-type books, and categories of books about how humans think, brain science, and psychology courses from the great courses.

I consumed as much as fast as possible, making time each year since, I try to complete 25-40 titles. Interspersed are history, biography, and memoirs. Some of the books around Trump (both sides) and the pandemic, authoritarians through history. Napoleon, Mao, Paul Pots, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin. Revolutions (ours and others), Washington, Hamilton, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Lincoln, Booth, Civil Wars(ours and others), WWI (incl hitlers origin story)

The bookslide was born, and I posted about that before. Here

Book reports also become part of the journey; I listen at 1.5x to 2x speed, and then, with the notes app, I jot down things to remember or learn and use in my work. I then made posts on my blog. Here. I highly recommend that you take notes for yourself; it helps me with retention, and the sooner I can use this learning, the better.

As of this writing, June 2024, I am halfway through a long listen on Harry Truman. I was traveling across the US in the first half of 2024 in the Airstream and added State Related books as I went.

Inside the airstream, #keepmoving #digitalnomad
Graphitti is off the hook
Civil War, pretty interesting never thought of these as civil war spots.

So now you know a little more about curiosity, at least mine. What are you curious about? Push the why questions in your world. But before you run off, here are a couple of ways and means that might help you or your team:

Conceptual Curiosity

When we work for clients, the conversation starts with ideas, lots of what-ifs, and how this could work. Draw it, however, with a picture worth 1000 words; these super quick sketches trigger loads of what if, why, why not, and so on.

ProTip uses your hands. The psycho-motor advantage here is the brain-hand lock-up helps me focus and stay in the curious mode longer

“Curious what would that look like?”

Logical Curiosity

This curiosity asks what that process is and how it will work. Some deductive if-this-then-that questions can help decipher the logic behind things. These apply to humans and systems. Form: ugly diagrams, whiteboards, etc..

Protip, boxes, and arrows work well for me, but coloring is also fun. Proof it, in the realm of what things would look like, make an illustration rather than a straight-up ugly diagram.

Some logical curiousness

Rational Curiosity

Sometimes, when deploying the rational bit, I think of the rationale for something, an equation, or a set of things that lead to something. The brain has these two structures: one emotional and the other rational; the interplay is in a number of the books on the book slide.

The amygdala (the felt part of the brain) works with another structure called the orbitofrontal cortex (the reward/punishment system), among many other brain parts. This is one curiosity where understanding how a human brain processes stimuli is core to learning, understanding, and knowing.

The brain we know very little about is so fun; so much to be curious about.

Emotional connection to fries, for example, makes my amagydala feel good. My OFC inhibits or enables my fry addiction, lol.

Physical Curiosity

When exercising this flavor of curiosity, there are ride-alongs, shop-alongs, and various other physical forms of how things work in space. Spatial curious creatives need to be in spaces where situations, interactions, and expectations appear. Learn by doing, which was the mantra while at Drexel.

The Wigwan Hotel in Holbrook AZ earlier this year,
on my own ‘Research Trip’

It generally applies here when taking an irl journey to understand how someone does a thing, and all the meta that comes with it is hard to understand without doing it. Let me show you how I do something. There are tangents and rabbit holes in whiteboard land. None of those apply when you are present.

Ed Catmull’s book about creativity discusses the value of the ‘Research Trips’ in making narrative and storytelling throughout Pixar. Their brain trust puts a significant value on that physical connection in story-making. You should, too.

Quote from the author: “research trips challenge our preconceived notions and keep clichés at bay. They fuel inspiration. They are, I believe, what keeps us creating rather than copying.” — Ed Catmull

There are so many questions:

Where does that happen?

What about that?

Why is that?

When does that happen?

How does it happen?

Who is impacted by this happening?

How does that work?

Who does that?

Tell me more?

If you made it down here, obviously, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m curious. Your results may vary, but let me know if they resonate in some way with your work. Good luck. Sorry, this post took a while. 👍🙏

Thank you for reading. #keepmoving #staycurious #askwhy